Q: I understand that parents will develop their understanding of intentional teaching over the course of their child’s time in a program, but what would you say to families in the beginning of the year?
A: Parents may be skeptical about intentional teaching for two opposing reasons.
On the on hand when some parents hear the words “child guided” they may worry children will not learn the basic knowledge and skills they need to be successful in school.
On the other hand, some parents fear that “adult guided” means children will not develop the ability to learn on their own.
Teachers can reassure parents that intentional teachers do prepare children for school, while also encouraging initiative and independence. Children need both types of experiences, depending on the subject matter and their emerging abilities.
So, how do you get this message across? One suggestion is that you help parents feel or experience the benefits of both methods directly. For example, you could plan a meeting for the beginning of the school year where you ask families to recall experiences in their own lives (either as children or adults) when they explored a material or practiced a skill on their own, but were able to get started or advance their technique when a more experienced person provided a helpful hint (such as adjusting the stance of their golf swing, or showing them a feature of an app they hadn’t discovered on their own).
If the set-up allows, divided the parents into small groups and present them with a tool or a physical challenge, and let them try it on their own. Then offer an idea for how they can use or do it in a more complex way (such as using the tip rather than the edge of a carving tool to make impressions in clay). The “aha” moment will come when parents realize that both teaching strategies can be effective. You can then reassure them that children, like adults, learn both ways and that an intentional teacher knows when and how to use each method.